Pikes/Pines | The trash trees of Capitol Hill

A canopy of red alders in winter. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

A friend of mine calls alders “trash trees.” He is an arborist, and as a pragmatic person who maintenances trees to fit into the grid, alders aren’t “good” trees. They are fairly weak, short lived, are rot prone, and pop up unwanted. They are also native, and as a result host loads of other species, and possesses a subtle seasonal variability I find a beautiful part of our landscape.

These differences of opinion are well reflected in the blocked up properties of dense, urban Capitol Hill. Based on my observations, some people care dearly about managing every last inch of space, others are willing to let things go wild, and some seem entirely oblivious to the world outside their indoor spaces. (Landscaping is also a privileged act, not simply about “caring” or “not caring”). I wonder how the red alder, Alnus rubra, the common and unassuming tree, fits into our world on the Hill?

There are certainly plenty of alder trees growing around Capitol Hill. They are in the Arboretum, in St. Mark’s  Greenbelt, in Interlaken Park. However, few yards appear to purposefully invite red alders into their limited spaces. Why is this? Continue reading

Arboretum Fall Plant Sale

Shoppers at last year’s event.

Fall is the optimal time for planting in the Pacific Northwest, so don’t miss the Arboretum Foundation’s popular annual sale.

Buy beautiful, high-quality plants for your garden while supporting tree care, children’s education, and volunteerism at the Arboretum.


Free admission & parking.

After more than 140 years of burials, Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery needs a new wall

Lake View still has room (Images: CHS)

Last week, CHS reported on Recompose, the Capitol Hill-birthed startup dedicated to rethinking what happens to our bodies after we die. As if Lake View Cemetery needed something else to worry about, the 147-year-old burial grounds are also in need of some costly repair.

The City of Seattle is reviewing a $1.5 million plan to replace the Capitol Hill cemetery’s dilapidated western retaining wall according to permit documents filed by the nonprofit association that runs the private grounds just north of Volunteer Park. Continue reading

‘Tree-point system’ — In quest to stay leafy, Seattle looks at new canopy protection rules


Seattle homeowners could need a permit to remove some trees from their property and developers would need to follow a “tree-point system” to determine how many trees would need to be planted when there is new construction under a new set of tree preservation regulations being considered at City Hall.

The city’s current tree preservation regulations were developed in 2009, but were considered at the time to be interim rules, said Yolanda Ho, of the city council staff during a May meeting of the council’s Planning Land Use and Zoning Committee.

A set of draft regulations was then developed in 2012, but it didn’t end up going anywhere. Now, the council is trying again to develop a set of rules that could help the Emerald City reach is goal of 30% tree cover. Continue reading

2017 Urban Forest Symposium: Equity & the Urban Forest

Co-hosted by PlantAmnesty and University of Washington Botanic Gardens


Symposium flyer
Register: http://bit.ly/urban-forest
Contact: urbhort@uw.edu / 206-685-8033

The 9th annual Urban Forest Symposium will explore the intersection of social justice and urban forestry. Attendees will hear from arborists and environmental stewardship organizations who are working to engage and serve diverse audiences. Urban forestry professionals and community organization leaders will discuss strategies to increase opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities to receive the benefits of urban forestry. Learn about tools you can use to apply an equity lens to your hiring, training, communications and engagement. Come to ask questions, to hear your colleagues’ stories of how their equity work looks and feels, and to develop a more informed perspective on the importance of equity within the field of urban forestry.

Presenters include:

  • Ron Harris-White, Director of Urban Environmental Leadership and Diversity | Antioch University Seattle
  • Kathleen Wolf, Research Social Scientist | University of Washington, College of the Environment and US Forest Service PNW Research Station
  • Noah Enlow, Senior Economist, & Brody Abbott, Built Environment Analyst and Planner | Ecotrust
  • Cindy Tomashow, Co-Director of Urban Environmental Education Graduate Program | IslandWood & Antioch University Seattle
  • Representatives from Seattle Parks & Recreation, Seattle City Light, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Forterra, and Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition


Check http://bit.ly/urban-forest for the latest information.

Nontraditional Small Trees for the Urban Garden

There is a hidden treasure among shrub species in the unending quest for good small scale trees for urban gardens.   We will look at a special group of evergreen and deciduous selections among the Arboretum’s plantings that reveal the hidden arboreal characteristics and functions of plants too often relegated solely to shrub status.

This interactive class includes classroom and field segments. We will also discuss right plant, right place, sustainability, design functions and aesthetics, how plants change in the landscape over time, and incorporating new plants into old landscapes.

Taught by Christina Pfeiffer, Horticultural Consultant and Instructor, ISA Certified Arborist

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E Pike tree pits are getting filled over with ‘porous pavement’

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What the new permeable pits will look like. (Image: SDOT)

Poor sidewalk tree pits. The tiny patches of dirt that give rise to Pike/Pine’s tree-lined blocks are often ignored receptacles of urban waste until cursed at for tripping up hurried pedestrians.

Now some of those Pike/Pine dirt patches are getting an upgrade. The Seattle Department of Transportation has started installing “flexible porous pavement” over 19 tree pits along E Pike between Broadway and 12th Ave. The goal of the project is to improve pedestrian safety by smoothing over the sidewalk surface while offering greater protection to E Pike’s trees. SDOT promises no trees will be harmed in the installation.

An SDOT flyer about the project says, “this innovative solution is one of several efforts to expand our use of these new materials as an alternative to traditional mulches and tree grates.” The permeable pavement also requires significantly less maintenance work.Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 10.40.38 AM

All sidewalks will remain open during the project. Contractors may take up a few parking spots during the installation, which is expected to wrap-up May 6th. The project is one of the many funded by the $930 million Move Seattle levy, approved by voters last year. CHS previously looked at some of the other levy-powered Council District 3 projects.

Even with healthier reinforced bases, many urban trees will be chopped down before their time. In 2014, Broadway’s big, old tree had to go after it began leaning too far over the sidewalk. A potentially “exceptional” red cedar is also on track to come down to make way for a new development at 19th and Mercer.

RIP, Cal Anderson bigleaf maple

"Wind storm knocks over tree on Capitol Hill Cal Anderson Park, Man stripped bare and climbs." (Image: @timdurkan via Twitter)

“Wind storm knocks over tree on Capitol Hill Cal Anderson Park, Man stripped bare and climbs.” (Image: @timdurkan via Twitter)

Damaged on a windy night in October 2014, the bigleaf maple standing on the southwest corner of Cal Anderson Park was taken down and hauled away by a work crew this week.

Seattle Parks tells CHS the tree’s health had been declining for several years and had “a large lead over the sidewalk that was decayed and cracking.” The Parks Arboriculturist said the decay was in the main trunk as well as major dead branches in the canopy. Continue reading

RIP, Cal Anderson wading pool plum tree

Tree split and downed probably by pre-dawn lightening

A casualty of recent storms bringing wet soil and wind, the old plum tree that shaded the area around the Cal Anderson wading pool near the park’s pumphouse was cut up to be hauled away this week.

A parks department arborist confirmed the storm-related death Tuesday. No, the old tree wasn’t struck by lightning though that would have been a cool way to go out.

Instead, the plum’s roots lost their grip in Cal Anderson’t soggy soil. There are currently no plans to replace the tree — especially as Seattle Parks looks at trimming the greenspace’s foliage further back and considers a $780,000 lighting plan to improve safety in the park.

2015 Tree Climbing season with Canopy Climbers has started!

Here’s your chance to scratch that tree-climbing itch! Canopy Climbers will kick off its fourth tree-climbing season with an “open” climb on Saturday April 25, just in time to celebrate Earth and Arbor Days.

This monthly event runs from noon until 5 p.m. at “Her Majesty,” a 110 foot tall red oak in the Northeast corner of Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park. Climbers ages 5 and up will be fitted with harnesses and helmets and taught how to ascend up to 60 feet in the tree.
The cost is $30 per climber: Sign-up online at www.canopyclimber.com

Canopy Climbers’ owner Dave Bayard is a 14-year professional arborist with a goal of spurring stewardship. The company offers monthly “open” climbs and private group or individual guided climbs in Seattle through November.

For information about Canopy Climbers, its trees, schedules, rates, or to sign-up for an open climb visit their website at www.canopyclimber.com